To make this dress I chose a linen-cotton blend fabric. Linen can often be a nightmare to wear because it creases so much but add cotton to it and the problems disappear. This is a very easy fabric to sew, it has a great texture and lends itself to a great variety of garments - skirts and tops and jackets as well as dresses all look fabulous made in this fabric. It is bright and cheerful and I can't wait to wear it.
Unfortunately this design has been so popular that it has sold out at Minerva, but never fear because there are other choices of beautiful Linen Fabrics
which will look every bit as special!
This particular design of dragons and flowers is quite appropriate as my son has just come home from almost six months in the East and of course he brought lots of treasures home.
The pattern I chose to make is New Look 6261. It is a shift dress and I made the longer sleeved version so that I could wear the dress all year round. The pattern has only few seams and that is why I chose it. A busy fabric needs to shine so whatever pattern you choose keep it simple.
A simple shift dress suits every figure shape and will be a go-to dress for any occasion.
It is important to get your size right and I want to remind you to take your measurements and to cut out the size closest to them, always cut out a larger size if there is any doubt. Your commercial dress size will almost always not be the same as your pattern size. As an added check, each major pattern piece shows the finished measurements with the amount of ease built in.
All the pattern markings need to be transferred from the pattern to the fabric. My preferred method is tailors tacks. Do these by making a couple of stitches on the spot leaving long loops, and then cutting the loops open. Pull the layers of fabric apart gently and snip the threads in the middle.
Tack everything together and try the dress on, making any necessary adjustments before sewing the dress together permanently.
When marking darts I like to draw lines with tailors chalk and a ruler to mark the exact stitching lines.
Don't forget to keep trying your dress on at intervals to check the fit.
People seem to be terrified of sewing in zippers, and it is true that they can be a nightmare sometimes.
One alternative is to sew a regular zipper in by hand. Couture garments always have hand sewn zippers.
Stitch your centre back seam and finish the edges. Machine baste the rest of the seam where the zipper will go and press the entire seam open.
Place the zipper face down with the teeth exactly on the seam line and tack it in place along both sides.
Then mark your sewing line on the right side of the fabric using tailors chalk. I use this because it is easily removed by wiping situation cloth. Please note that most fabric markers become permanent when ironed so always remove them before pressing.
Sew the zipper in place with a Prick Stitch - starting on the right if you are right handed secure the thread on the back of the fabric and bring it out to the front. Take a tiny backstitch - just a thread of the fabric away from where you started and when your needle touches your finger pull it through and come up again a short distance away from your first stitch. You will soon find out why this is called Prick Stitch - just look at the skin on your finger!
You will see tiny stitches on the right side of the fabric, but that is as it should be.
To strengthen the zip insertion machines stitch the zipper to the seam allowance on the back. This will also prevent the fabric from fraying.
Remove all tacking stitches and the tailors chalk and press.
I like to then join the shoulder seams and insert the neck facings next.
You need to use a lightweight iron on interfacing on the facings to add body to the neckline.
When you have studied the facings onto the neckline it is important to clip the curves all the way down to the stitching line. Then press the seam towards the facing and stitch the facing to the seam allowance. This is called understitching and it holds your facing in place without showing on the right side of the garment.
Press it again and stitch the centre backs to the zipper tape neatly. Add a hook and eye if needed.
The pattern often tells you to sew the side seams next and then insert the sleeves, but it is much easier to insert sleeves before the side seams are stitched.
Run a row of long stitches inside the seam allowance and use this to ease the sleeve into the armsyche.This needs to be done evenly with no pleats or gathers anywhere or it will spoil the look of the dress.
Now you can stitch and finish the side seams. Do have a final fitting first though.
After putting all the effort in to make a neat neckline and to insert the zipper by hand I think that the hem should also be special, so I chose a blind hem which is almost invisible.
Finish the bottom of the garment and the sleeves either with your overlocker or by turning 1/4" seam to the inside.
You will probably have a blind hem foot with your sewing machine feet, they often come as part of the accessories with your machine.
This is what the blind hem foot looks like. It has a guide down the centre which the needle swings over. Look in your machine manual to find the correct settings for your machine.
With the wrong side facing upwards fold the hem to the right side (which will be underneath your work) leaving a small amount of the bottom of the garment showing. Once you figure out how to fold and position your fabric this type of hem is a breeze.
Set your machine up and practice on a spare piece of fabric. The guide is positioned close to the foldand the bulk of the stitches will be on the single layer and tour needle will swing to the left just catching the folded edge. Change your needle position or the stitch width until the needle only just catches the fold of the fabric. It sounds complicated but it all makes sense when the work is in front of you.
Fold the hem down and you will harldy be able to see these stitches on the right side. It is a lovely finish.
To sew the sleeve hems use the sleeve arm on your machine if it has one - they nearly all do - just remove the storage compartment and put the sleeve over the arm.
The back looks very neat and professional with its hand sewn zip, so if you are a sewer who avoids machine stitched zips then this might be worth considering,it is after all a couture technique?
I didn't over-fit my dress, if it were a dress intended for evening or a wedding I would have made it a closer fit. I am likely to be wearing this during the day and on holiday so a slightly more generous fit was in my case more appropriate.
Fit also depends on your fabric, for example satin frays easily and if the dress strains anywhere you could find that your fabric in time starts to look threadbare in seams and darts. Decide yourself where you are likely to be wearing the dress and fit accordingly. In the end though fit as well as length is all down to personal taste and your own style. And that's the beauty of sewing isn't it.
I would love to see your fabric choices for this lovely dress!